The "Premier"

On any given day, Syrian President Hafiz al-Asad may be extolled as the nation’s ‘premier’ pharmacist, teacher, lawyer, or doctor; he may be pictured in the newspapers with foreign dignitaries, showing ‘complete understanding of all issues.’ Following elections he is congratulated for winning more than 99 percent of the vote. Routinely in official discourse, Asad appears as the ‘father,’ the combatant,’ the ‘savior of Lebanon,’ the ‘leader forever,’ or the ‘gallant knight,’ the modern-day Salah al-Din, after the original who wrested Jerusalem from enemy control in 1187. Religious iconography and slogans attesting to his immortality bedeck the walls of buildings, the windows of taxi cabs, and the doors of restaurants.

[. . .]

Youth are ritualistically enlisted to assemble at ‘spontaneous’ rallies orchestrated by ‘popular’ organizations; individual poets, university professors, artists, and playwrights are periodically called upon to deploy their talents in the production of public spectacles; the federations of peasants and workers, as well as the professional syndicates of journalists, lawyers, and doctors, among others, are all compelled at one time or another to conjure up slogans and imagery representing their idealized connection to Party and President.

From Wedeen, Lisa, “Acting ‘As If’: Sybolic Politics and Social Control in Syria” in Comparative Studies in Society and History: Vo 40, No. 3, pg. 504 (1998).

If I ever have complete control of a country, I will be sure that I am the nation’s “premier” pharmacist, teacher, lawyer, and doctor.


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